Monday, September 13, 2010

How does Christ come into the church?

Richard Sibbes continues in Bowels Opened Part 5 to consider how Christ comes to the church. We must remember that "Christ speaks to the spouse here" - we are considering the relationship he has with she who has the Spirit of God already, one who could help them to open the door.
For good and gracious men are moved first by the Spirit, and then they move; they are acted first by the Spirit, and then they do act by it, not of themselves; as the inferior orbs move not, but as they are moved by the superior.
But what about at conversion?
He knocks at their hearts, and opens together with his speech. Then there goes a power that they shall open; for his words are operative words. As it was in the creation, ‘Let there be light,' it was an operative word, ‘and there was light,' Gen. 1:3. Let there be such a creature, it was an operative working word, and there was such a creature presently. So he opens together with that word. With that invitation and command there goes an almighty power to enable the soul to open."
And so to in raising dead Lazarus with a word.
"So Christ by his Spirit clothes his word in the ministry, when he speaks to people with a mighty power. As the minister speaks to the ear, Christ speaks, opens, and unlocks the heart at the same time; and gives it power to open, not from itself, but from Christ. Paul speaks to Lydia's ear, Christ to her heart , and opened it, as the text says, Acts 16:13, whereby she believes;
But why does Christ work this way?
"Christ works reasonably and "freely by a sweet inclination, not by violence. Therefore when he works the work of conversion, he does it in a sweet manner, though it is mighty for the efficaciousness of it. He admonishes us with entreaty and persuasion, as if we did it ourselves. But though the manner is thus sweet, yet with this manner there goes an almighty power. Therefore he does it strongly as coming from himself, and sweetly, as the speaking is to us, preserving our nature. So the action is from him, which has an almighty power with it. As holy Bernard says, ‘You deal sweetly with my soul in regard of myself’; 'that is, you work upon me, as a man with the words of love, yet strongly in regard of thyself. For except he add strength with sweetness, the work will not follow; but when there are both, an almighty work is wrought in the soul of a Christian... to say: 'I knock; open to me, my love, my dove,' etc."
Christ's approach to the church is both sweet and powerful, for he longs not simply to move our actions - that we open the door, but to win our hearts that we would give them afresh to him. Christianity is not of behaviour and outward actions but of desire and love. Our relationship with Christ is far deeper than formalism and ritual, it is a bond of deep and intimate love. This is not a relationship of dictator to his people, but of the great lover Christ to his people. It is Christ at the door, the most lovely and beautiful who laid his life down for us.

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